Fatty acid synthase (FAS) is selectively expressed in certain human cancers, including carcinoma of the breast, prostate, colon, ovary, and endometrium, compared to normal human tissues and therefore is a putative tumor marker. In this study, we found FAS concentrations were elevated in cell culture supernatants during cell growth in two human breast cancer cell lines but not other cancer cell lines. A quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot analysis were employed in this study. In addition, serum FAS levels were significantly higher in breast cancer patients with different clinical stages (Stage II: 0.59+/-0.09 units/l, Stage III: 0.79+/-0.13 units/l, and Stage IV: 1.39+/-0.35 units/l) compared with healthy subjects (0.27+/-0.02 units/l, P<0.05). Taken together, our data suggest that FAS expression may be a useful tumor marker for breast cancer and play a role in assessing cancer virulence.